Music provision in schools 2020-2021

Posted by Suffolk County Music Service on 10 July 2020 | Comments

For the attention of Suffolk schools

Dear Colleagues

Last week the Government released brief guidance on group music tuition in the DfE 'Guidance for full opening: schools' published on 2 July 2020.

Schools should note that there may be an additional risk of infection in environments where you or others are singing, chanting, playing wind or brass instruments or shouting. This applies even if individuals are at a distance. Schools should consider how to reduce the risk, particularly when pupils are playing instruments or singing in small groups such as in music lessons by, for example, physical distancing and playing outside wherever possible, limiting group sizes to no more than 15, positioning pupils back-to-back or side-to-side, avoiding sharing of instruments, and ensuring good ventilation. Singing, wind and brass playing should not take place in larger groups such as school choirs and ensembles, or school assemblies. Further detailed DfE guidance will be published shortly.

It is heartening to see a commitment to a broad and ambitious curriculum from September that includes music. You will require more detailed DfE guidance to make your risk assessments. The government guidance will be published during the summer. 

To support you while we await further DfE guidance, we provide the following information, a link to resources and suggestions for the autumn term.

The risks

The guidance states there may be an additional risk. It is important to note that neither the Government nor the music profession is in possession of definitive peer-reviewed scientific research to prove or disprove the statement.

While there is much evidence of the positive effect of music participation, for example, on well-being and children’s cognitive development, research on viral transmission (prior to the advent of Covid-19) was limited as it had not previously been viewed as a major risk factor in group music participation.

An informed approach

Fortunately, help is at hand, as a considerable amount of effort is now going into this area of study and a growing body of scientific research is building to help guide us when carrying out group music risk assessments.

Our subject association, Music Mark, which represents 95% of music services, has collated the literature and produced two guidance documents for schools and music providers. These documents, along with the collated literature, can be accessed on the Music Mark website.

The documents are ‘live’ and regularly updated as new information is available. Risks assessment pro formas are included.

CMS support

The music service will provide risk assessments for the following areas:

  • Class singing
  • Class WCET non-blown instruments
  • Class WCET blown instruments (woodwind and brass)
  • Small ensemble (15 or fewer musicians)

We will update schools as soon as these are available and share these and other resources with you via our website and Headlines.

Options under consideration

For schools that have confirmed WCET programmes for Autumn term, we are considering two alternative delivery options subject to risk assessments for each setting:

  1. Maintain your chosen instrumental programme and we focus on developing general musicianship during the Autumn term, using a range of musical activities without using the selected instrument or singing, to be in accordance with Government guidelines. The intention will then be to introduce the actual instrument in the Spring term, provided this matches government guidance and your own risk assessments.
  2. You maintain your chosen instrumental programme and instead of a whole-class programme, we deliver 20-minute sessions to groups of up to 10. This is provided the approach matches government guidance and your own risk assessments.

Please contact your area Senior Manager to discuss any aspect of provision. Contact details are below:

In the meantime, we will update as more information becomes available.

Yours sincerely,

David Stowe

Head of Suffolk County Music Service, Directorate of Children and Young People’s Services

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